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Wait at your own risk along South Hills bus route

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Pedestrians lean along a guardrail, just feet away from the busy state route, as they wait for public transportation to arrive. A steep hill sits just a few feet behind them.

At another bus stop, just blocks away, pedestrians often dart across the street in hopes of making it across the four-lane highway before a car comes rushing by.

“You'd really have to be a risk taker to wait at some of those stops,” said Greg Jones, executive director of Economic Development South, a nonprofit organization working to bolster development in the boroughs of Baldwin, Brentwood, Whitehall and the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Carrick and Overbrook. “Right now, you can look and immediately imagine 20 reasons why people aren't taking the bus and many of those are the shelters. In theory, it should be an attractive option.”

Economic Development South is working to improve accessibility to city life for suburban residents with plans to revamp bus stops along the Route 51 corridor, create a transit hub near the Route 51 and Route 88 intersection and add easy-to-use transit connections to a senior housing facility set to be built at the former Overbrook Middle School, Jones said.

“The over-arching thing is access,” he said.

Economic Development South officials are looking at options to bring “smart signalization,” through adaptive technology, or monitored traffic lights, to the Route 51 corridor to help improve vehicular traffic, said Jones and Stephanie Miller, manager of projects and initiatives for EDS.

“That's only one piece of the puzzle, though,” Jones said.

Economic Development South has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University's Urban Design Studio to collect data and begin drafting ideas for better design and use of bus stops along the Route 51 corridor.

The group recently toured several bus stops in the area, including the Route 51 and Streets Run Road stop, Jones said. Safety lacks at many bus stops along the corridor, as does appeal, he said.

“If you think about it, how many more people would ride the bus if they had a nice place to wait?” Jones said.

The groups are working to find a way to improve a handful of stops, through “green” infrastructure, between the Port Authority busway and Century III mall, Jones said.

“We think there's an opportunity here to pioneer a new way of thinking,” Jones said. “We're looking at all of the good things that can come from this.”

Jones said he would like to work with South Hills towns on increasing ridership on main bus routes, such as those that travel Route 51.

Hopes are for this project — which the support of numerous organizations is being sought for — to be complete within the next two years, Jones said.

A project to create a multimodal transit center near the Route 51/Route 88 intersection also is underway, he said.

The center likely would include bus and light rail transportation and a parking lot.

Economic Development South received a $40,000 grant from the Urban Redevelopment Authority for a concept plan, which currently is being crafted.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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